In honor of Valentines Day, VirginiaWind went in search of chocolate, which led us directly to the panhandle of West Virginia in the town of Martinsburg. Here DeFluri’s Fine Chocolates located on Queen Street, historic Martinsburg’s main street, provides visitors a peek into the world of the chocolatier as they create wonderful confections behind the storefront in their very own chocolate factory. With a little more research, we also learned that downtown Martinsburg is the home of Rock Hill Creamery where you can get freshly made ice cream in season. With home made chocolate and ice cream within close proximity of each other, deciding on the destination for the month was simply a matter of taste.
Over the years we have learned that no matter what we think we know about a location, there is always more waiting to be discovered. The key to these discoveries lies in beginning with a trip to the local Visitors Center. We have found that the staff is typically very enthusiastic and filled with hometown pride. They are also more than willing to share the local secrets of the best places to eat and lesser-known items of interest. In Martinsburg, this hub of information is located in historic downtown inside the town’s still active train depot.
Unlike the cookie-cutter buildings of many downtown areas, Martinsburg is filled with unique architecture. A majority of the buildings are Registered National Historic Places. One of the best ways to experience the personality of the region is to simply wander along the streets where you will find a wide variety of architecture from a Triple Bridge Building to a Gothic Revival Style building. Whether your interest lies in browsing an art gallery, purchasing West Virginia made glass or grabbing an old fashioned soda from one of the oldest soda fountains in the east at Patterson’s Drug Store, you will find just what you are looking just a few steps away.
In addition to offering great places to dine, browse and shop, Martinsburg is a town steeped in history. Besides being the home of Isabelle (Belle) Boyd the notorious southern spy during the Civil War, it was also the birthplace of a nationwide railroad labor strike in 1877 when rail workers finally united to protest wage cuts and unsafe working conditions.
From its beginnings with the B&O railroad in 1843 to modern day Amtrak, the railroad has long been, and continues to be, a central focal point of the town. The historical roundhouse constructed in late 1865 is one of the few remaining industrial railroad buildings in operation today. Preparations are being made to open this unique industrial railroad building as a public exhibit. Currently, it is only open during special occasions and by appointment.
Today, Martinsburg is at the crossroads of change as more and more people migrate from the overcrowded DC metro area in search of a simpler life. However, Martinsburg has been at the crossroads many times before. During the Civil War, it changed hands between the north and the south 17 times. Yet the town always managed to thrive and grow. Many people are just now discovering what long time residents have always known: a town is more than buildings - it is all about the people, the heritage and the spirit of the community. All aboard!